Air Guns Explained
Guns Explained is intended primarily for the beginner
trying to sort through the dizzying array of air guns available on
the market today. You may have heard of each of the various types
of air guns, but are confused as to the differences between BB
guns, pellet guns, airsoft guns and paintball guns. Generally
speaking, all of these guns can be classified as air guns. However,
airsoft and paintball are usually grouped into classifications of
their own. None of these are considered firearms, at least not
by the BATF (Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco and Firearms).
The term BB guns is generally used today to categorize air guns
that shoot the traditional 0.177 caliber steel BBs. These BBs are
spherical in shape and are typically coated with copper or zinc for
rust protection. Propulsion of the BB projectile can be generated
from a number of options, depending on the gun. The traditional
method is via spring piston where a cocking action causes the piston
to compress a spring. A pull of the trigger releases the piston and
propels the BB. The cocking action could be a engaging a lever or
bolt or perhaps a sliding trombone action of the rifle forearm.
Other BB guns utilize compressed air via pump action, referred to as
single pump or multi-pump pneumatics. Typically the forearm of the
rifle is pumped up and down in a swing action or slid back and forth.
Air is compressed into a chamber and released upon pulling the trigger
providing power to propel the BB projectile. A slightly more modern
means of BB propulsion, initiated by the Crosman Corporation about 60
years ago, is the use of CO2 gas. The CO2 gas is contained in
cartridges small enough to fit into the BB gun. These CO2 cartridges
require replacement when the CO2 gas runs out. CO2 technology is most
commonly found in BB pistols. BB guns are mostly recommended for
target shooting or backyard plinking. One last thing to note
regarding BB Guns. Never shoot a BB gun at a hard flat surface.
The BBs will ricochet and may cause serious injury.
Pellet Guns are very similar to BB guns, but are far more versatile.
Pellet guns fire pellets of varying sizes, depending on the specific
gun purchased. The pellets come in a variety of shapes and weights
as well, designed for accuracy and/or power. Typical sizes are .177
cal, .22 cal and .25 cal. Like BB guns, pellet guns can employ spring
piston, pump pneumatics or CO2 as its power source. For pellet guns,
other propulsion methods are also available, such as Precharged
Pneumatics (PCP) and gas piston technology. Precharged Pneumatics
requires the guns air reservoir to be precharged or filled with a
hand pump or scuba tank prior to shooting. The PCP gun is typically
capable of firing several shots per fill. Gas piston technology relies
on nitrogen gas, compressed by a piston as opposed to the spring piston
which compresses a spring. Gas piston guns utilize a break barrel
cocking action to compress the nitrogen gas. Pellet guns are not only
made for plinking and target shooting but also for small game hunting
and competitive shooting. Hunting rifles can pack a lot more power
than the old BB gun. Larger caliber pellets allow for the take down
of larger sized critters such as raccoons. Competitive air rifles,
made with accuracy in mind, are used for high school competition on up
to the Olympic level. Pellet guns tend to be more expensive than BB
guns because they offer more power and accuracy. Some pellet guns
can run into the thousands of dollars for competitive or hunting
Airsoft is a whole niche of its own. Airsoft guns are made to fire
plastic airsoft BBs, commonly 6mm in size. They are typically sold
with an orange tip at the muzzle for safety reasons. Because airsoft
guns can closely resemble actual firearms, the orange tip helps to
distinguish it from the real thing. Airsoft guns generally fire at
less velocity than pellet guns. Because of this and the plastic
make up of the BBs, they are less likely to cause serious bodily
injury. They tend to be favored by parents. More serious airsoft
aficionados engage in tactical simulaton battles and participate in
competitive leagues. Players can be assigned tactical designations
or positions and be assigned a specific type of airsoft gun. Airsoft
guns, like their firearm counterparts, come in differing types;
assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and pistols being the most
common. Airsoft guns are also powered by different sources, the
most basic being spring. Many of the sniper rifles and shotguns
utilize spring power. Like BB and pellet guns, CO2 power is also an
option. There is also another type of gas known as “Green Gas”
that is widely used. Unlike CO2, which comes in insertable cartridges,
Green Gas is typically filled into the magazine of the gun. The
most popular type of airsoft gun used in tactical simulation is the
AEG (Automatic Electric Gun) assault rifle which utilizes battery
power. At a minimum, eye protection should be required for
participation in airsoft games.
Similar to airsoft, paintball is a classification unto its own.
Paintball guns are characterized by the use of paintball ammo,
spherical BBs filled with dye encased in a gelatin shell that bursts
upon contact. The paintball gun or marker as it is also referred to,
is distinguished by the paintball hopper fitted on top of the gun
which feeds the paintballs down into the body. Common propulsion
methods include the use of CO2, compressed air or nitrogen gas.
Paintball guns are used in recreational battles or simulations.
Like airsoft, there are many leagues specifically for paintball game
play. Unlike airsoft, a paintball hit can be more traumatic, often
leaving a welt or bruise in unprotected areas. The use of masks
and/or goggles is imperative. Also unlike airsoft, the paintball gun
is not typically made to resemble a real firearm. Performance is
more important to the serious paintball player.
Determine what category of air guns suits your interest and go from
there. As my teacher used to say, “Clear as mud.”
We have the best selection of Air Guns
at the lowest prices!
The Air Gun Glossary consists of commonly used terms
and abbreviations used in the world of air guns.
The Airsoft Glossary consists of commonly used terms and abbreviations used in
the world of airsoft.
BB Gun Safety is an extremely important factor to consider for anyone
looking to handle a BB gun.